For lots of kids, back-to-school time is a stressful experience. Sure, it's great to reunite with friends, but then there are the new schedules to navigate, long days to endure, bullies to avoid, and testing, testing, testing for everything from reading to science to math. If you happen to be a kid who is a little overweight, you may have another stress on your horizon. "Fat letters" are used by many schools to notify parents about their child's potential weight issues. But many health experts warn that these letters are actually just another form of shaming that could be a springboard for eating disorders and anxiety.
The letters are part of a move by school districts to combat childhood obesity at the family level. Kids have their weight and other measurements taken at the beginning of the year to calculate BMI, or body mass index, that ever-so contentious number used to gauge whether or not a child is underweight, of normal weight, overweight or obese. Based on these calculations, letters are sent home to parents warning them if their kids are over or underweight, or notifying them that their kids are lucky enough to be considered a "normal" weight. The result, according to many parents, is kids that are mortified by their results, left open to bullying, and overly focused on the numbers on the scale.
One of the biggest issues with these "fat letters" is the flawed BMI numbers used to calculate obesity. For instance, it doesn't take into account factors such as muscle mass, so kids who are athletic and muscular can easily be mislabeled as obese. Health experts have also worried that different ethnic groups tend to be labeled incorrectly using the BMI method for determining obesity.
But by far, the bigger problem with these letters is that they teach kids to focus on arbitrary numbers rather than exercising and eating wholesome foods as part of a healthy lifestyle. And they give kids a reason to feel self-conscious about their weight and body image rather than feel happy with who they are.
What do you think? Do 'fat letters,' help kids and families nip childhood obesity in the bud or are they just another form of 'fat shaming' that fights obese people rather than obesity?
Related on MNN:
- How food ads could fuel childhood obesity
- School lunches can help fight childhood obesity
- New studies link BPA to childhood obesity and asthma
The opinions expressed by MNN Bloggers and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of MNN.com. While we have reviewed their content to make sure it complies with our Terms and Conditions, MNN is not responsible for the accuracy of any of their information.